Redskins vs. Falcons: Studs and Duds (defense)

Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim


LB Ryan Kerrigan. Let’s be clear about this: He’s on here for one play only. For the most part Kerrigan had a silent game save for two plays and one was monstrous. Studs and Duds is all about playmakers and Kerrigan made the biggest play of all on defense. It’s not a difficult read for Kerrigan, at least to know that it was a screen. Once the tackle lets him slip past like that, he knows what’s coming. Then he saw the back run to the right and Kerrigan plays for the pass. Smart move. Quarterback Matt Ryan underestimated Kerrigan’s athleticism I suppose because he barely tried to get it over the top. In fact, Kerrigan didn’t have to jump high at all to snatch the pass. Credit his instincts for this play, which resulted in a 28-yard touchdown. Kerrigan also had a tackle for a three-yard loss on a swing pass to the running back in the fourth quarter. Other than that, he was mostly silent. Too silent. But the one play is all it took.




S Reed Doughty. He did not have a horrible game. But on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown he made a critical mistake.  Doughty was late covering his half of the field in a cover-2 zone (with London Fletcher dropping to the middle in a Tampa 2 look) and that left Julio Jones free over the top of Josh Wilson for an 18-yard touchdown. Maybe Doughty doesn’t prevent the grab, but he has to do his job to find out. He tried to disguise the coverage and was perhaps a little late getting back, though he was in position before the snap. However, for some reason he took a step forward at the snap, delaying his sprint outside. That’s all a guy like Matt Ryan needs. There were two other receivers to that side of the formation, but both were taken care of. There was no need for the delay and even Doughty knew it. He also was called for a holding penalty and missed a tackle. But he had several good run fits as well.  A decent day ruined by one late rotation.

ILB Perry Riley. For the same reason as Doughty. One play, but  in this case it wasn’t a matter of being late it was just a missed assignment. On the Michael Turner 13-yard touchdown, Riley drifted too far inside on the handoff. Turner started up the middle, the slid to the outside around left end, where a huge hole opened. Linebacker Chris Wilson stepped inside just before the snap, then was sealed. Madieu Williams came upfield and took on a lead blocker. That left room for … a linebacker who went the wrong way. Riley ended up in a hole where he thought Turner was going to go (London Fletcher was a couple yards behind him) Riley had a couple other miscues, a wrong angle here on a tackle attempt (attacked the wrong shoulder once vs. Tony Gonzalez, leading to a miss and seven extra yards; not egregious, but still). Riley made up for those plays – he recovered a fumble off a botched exchange — but this particular play hurt them. There were a lot of key little plays; this was one of the few that led to points.



…This was one of the harder games to get a feel for in terms of who played really well and who didn’t. There were a lot of plays (the Falcons ran 81, but only averaged 5.2 per carry. This wasn’t a bludgeoning, it was a slow bleeding to death). But there weren’t a lot of really big plays. I probably watched this one more than I’ve watched any other game. And I reached a conclusion: It was a rather ordinary defensive game by an ordinary unit. The Redskins forced Atlanta to be patient and drive the field and, guess what, they did. The Falcons had 13 possessions and nine of them lasted at least six plays. They limited the big plays, but they didn’t do a whole lot other than Kerrigan’s big play. Matt Ryan had a lot of time in the pocket and found receivers. They were patient, though they missed on a couple long passes.

Josh Wilson actually played a solid game, but the 29-yard pass play in the fourth quarter led to a touchdown. However, he made some excellent plays – breaking up a deep ball; a pivotal tackle on a third-down screen; drove well on the ball on a slant to Julio Jones, attacking the upfield shoulder. Wilson was involved in the touchdown to Jones, but that was mostly on the safety.  DeAngelo Hall had some good moments, but also allowed key pass plays in the second half, a 17-yarder to Roddy White and a 19-yarder to Harry Douglas. My first thought was that London Fletcher didn’t play well thanks to Gonzalez. But Fletcher  was one of five Redskins (at least) who covered Gonzalez at some point (whether in man or zone). Heck, perhaps Hall could have closed the window a little tighter on the 22-yard pass down the right seam in the second quarter to the 1-yard line (they were in a trap defense; he had safety help behind him. He played it right, though with Ryan a little window is all that’s necessary).

…The defensive line did an excellent job vs. the run, but they applied little pressure. I know, three-man rushes etc., etc.,etc.  Yeah, that’s part of the problem, but they’re not the first team to face this. The Redskins rushed three defenders on 11 occasions. But, remember, Ryan attempted 52 passes. On those throws they rushed four men 34 times. The Falcons protected with six or more blockers on 21 plays and often had two more than Washington sent. That makes a difference. But there was one pass play in which Ryan had 4.3 seconds in the pocket (a four-man rush vs. six blockers) yet no one was within four yards of him when he threw the ball.

…There were 16 pass plays in which Ryan held the ball for at least 3.0 seconds. He was sacked once and hit once on those plays (though the hit came after he took 5.0 seconds to throw). Ryan took 2.5 seconds or more on 33 of his passes.

…Here’s more of a breakdown: The Redskins rushed three defenders 11 times; four defenders 34 times; five defenders seven times (another pass was in a goal-line situation). The Falcons countered with five blockers 28 times, six blockers 12 times and seven or more blockers nine times. Quick throws typically came from a five-man blocking front. I know the pass rush takes this as a badge of honor that teams use extra blockers. But they’re not getting home and perhaps what’s really true is they know if they can buy themselves an extra half-second, and there are only three on the route, they’ll still get open against seven defenders.

…Ryan took advantage of having big targets while facing a short coverage unit. His accuracy comes in knowing where to put the ball on a receiver and often prevented the defense from making a play. The Redskins’ corners in this game all were 5-foot-11 or shorter (Richard Crawford is listed at 5-foot-11; Wilson at 5-foot-9 and Hall is 5-foot-10; I would not have guessed Crawford was that tall). They also have a 5-foot-9 linebacker trying to cover a 6-foot-5 tight end. I did not add up the throws in which height mattered, but suffice to say it happened more than a few times. Once, Wilson had to somehow cover that tight end, Tony Gonzalez, on a little hitch. It was like LeBron James had posted up on him in basketball; he had no shot. Lorenzo Alexander had pretty good coverage on Gonzalez in the end zone, but again physics won out. Not every QB is that accurate where they could take advantage all the time in these situations.

…The defensive line continues to do a solid job vs. the run, but it was hard to put any of them as a stud when they only combined for one sack and four pressures. Some of it, again, is the scheme as they focused heavily on coverage (which I understand), but some of it has to fall on the players. However, collectively they did a solid job.

The other thing to keep in mind in the 3-4 the pass rush needs to be led by the outside linebackers. Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson didn’t provide much of a rush, if any. In fairness to them they probably combined for 15 rushes. That’s not a lot, but they were in position to do much more. The main reason Wilson is on the roster is to provide a pass rush. It hasn’t happened yet. The Redskins actually had him cover Roddy White on one first quarter play (a third and 4 in which, yes, he allowed a first down catch as White ran away from him on a crossing route.

…Jackson and Riley did a good job on the end around with Julio Jones. Those two, along with end Stephen Bowen strung out the play for a one-yard gain.

…Liked what I saw from defensive end Jarvis Jenkins in the first half especially. While Adam Carriker is missed, the difference here as opposed to those behind Brian Orakpo is that Jenkins has the talent to be a really good player. A knock on him was his inability to occupy blockers just yet. But he’s improving in that area; he’s not Carriker yet but we’re starting to see many positive signs.

But Jenkins occupied two blockers on the first play of the game, setting up a tackle for no gain. Later in the quarter he took on the tackle while sliding right and shoved the right guard, who then could not get to Riley in time and guess who made the play? Riley. With an assist to Jenkins.

Jenkins had a solid play in the third quarter when he drove the tackle back, then pushed him aside for a stop of no gain (along with Kerrigan and Doughty). Two plays later he drove the guard back for a pressure.  But he needs to find a way to generate more pressure. Barry Cofield had one strong series, with a sack and a batted pass. Like I said, a lot of solid efforts but with all those pass attempts more is expected, even when there are good reasons it might not be as successful.

Doug Worthington did an excellent job on a two-yard run in the first quarter. Took two blockers and kept Riley clean, allowing him to flow to the ball with no issues.






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